Estimating range extents of mushroom-forming fungi using OTUs

Study applies DNA barcoding data to more accurately describe range extents of species in 12 mushroom genera

GBIF-mediated data resources used : 155,363 species occurrences
Polyporus badius
Polyporus badius growing on dead tree trunk—observed in Keila-Joa, Estonia by Esa Ervasti. Photo via PlutoF (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Genetically more closely related to animals than to plants, fungi constitute the third kingdom of eukaryotic organisms. Essential to terrestrial ecosystems, they facilitate wood decay and form mycorrhizal symbioses with autotrophic plants. Accurate knowledge on fungus distributional ranges, however, may be hampered by overestimations due to broad species delimitations.

Using genetically defined operational taxonomic units (OTUs) from the UNITE database, this study by Canadian researchers attempts to improve this knowledge by analysing global data from 12 mushroom-forming fungus genera. They augmented this dataset by sampling 600+ mushroom specimens found in Washington and British Columbia.

As many OTU records lack precise locality data, the authors used country centroids to estimate ranges—a methodology they verified by comparing estimated range extents with GBIF-mediated occurrences of species of four well-studied tree genera.

The overall results put the median range extent of mushroom OTUs at 1,200 to 4,039 km and suggest a biogeographic structure as opposed to global distributions—of mushroom-forming fungi.

Original article

Bazzicalupo AL, Whitton J and Berbee ML (2019) Over the hills, but how far away? Estimates of mushroom geographic range extents. Journal of Biogeography. Wiley. Available at: